COPD is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. In people with COPD, the airways (the branching tubes that carry air within the lungs) become narrow and damaged. This makes people feel out of breath and tired.
COPD can be a serious illness. It cannot be cured and it usually gets worse over time. But there are treatments that can help.
You might have heard COPD referred to as “chronic bronchitis” or “emphysema.” These are types of COPD.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is defined as a disease state characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible (http://www.goldcopd.com/). COPD includes emphysema, an anatomically defined condition characterized by destruction and enlargement of the lung alveoli; chronic bronchitis, a clinically defined condition with chronic cough and phlegm; and small airways disease, a condition in which small bronchioles are narrowed. COPD is present only if chronic airflow obstruction occurs; chronic bronchitis without chronic airflow obstruction is notincluded within COPD.
Medicines to treat COPD
Bronchodilator medicines – Bronchodilator medicines (also called “bronchodilators”) are the main medicines used to treat COPD. They help open the airways. They might also help lower the amount of mucus in the lungs.
Bronchodilators come in “short-acting” forms that relieve symptoms quickly and “long-acting” forms that control symptoms over time.
Short-acting bronchodilators include:
●Short-acting beta agonists – Short-acting beta agonists (called “SABAs”) relieve shortness of breath quickly by relaxing tight muscles around the airways. SABAs usually come in a “metered dose” inhaler. But it’s also possible to get them in something called a nebulizer, which is a machine that turns the medicine into a mist and makes it easier to breathe in.
●Short-acting anticholinergics – Short-acting anticholinergics help the lungs work better and reduce symptoms. If you have mild COPD, you might take a short-acting anticholinergic only when you have symptoms. If symptoms are more severe or happen often, you might take it every day to help keep symptoms from happening. These medicines come in a metered dose inhaler and through a nebulizer.
●Short-acting combination medicine – A combination medicine has 2 medicines in 1 inhaler. Taking them together can work better than taking them alone. These medicines come in a metered dose inhaler and through a nebulizer.
Long-acting bronchodilators include:
●Long-acting beta agonists – Long-acting beta agonists (called “LABAs”) relax the muscles around the airways like short-acting beta agonists do. But the effects last much longer. LABAs help control symptoms for 12 to 24 hours, depending on the exact one being used. There are several types of LABA. Your doctor or nurse will describe how to use the one you are given.
●Long-acting anticholinergics – Long-acting anticholinergics help the lungs work better and decrease symptoms over time. They also reduce the risk of COPD attacks, called “flares.” (A flare is when symptoms suddenly get worse.) One brand, Spiriva, comes in pills that you put into the inhaler when it is time to take a dose. You will need to push buttons on the side of the inhaler to poke holes in the pill. The pill does not work if swallowed and must be used with the inhaler. The other brand, Tudorza, is preloaded into the inhaler.
●Long-acting combination medicine – A long-acting combination medicine called Anoro Ellipta has a LABA and a long-acting anticholinergic. It comes in a dry powder inhaler.